After several years of dormancy, the old Senova restaurant space at 1864 West 57th Avenue is finally getting a new lease on life as Chef Kevin Lin and Creative Designer Steph Wan aim to open a new restaurant there early next month.
The new, 2,400-square foot project is called Land & Sea. I paid it a visit to the almost finished restaurant last week as Lin was training some of his kitchen staff and finalizing aspects of his opening menu, which is now being teased as a one-sheet in the front window for all to see. Lin, you might recall, was previously attached to the fun and creative Uncles Snack Shop in Richmond. We also had him associated with the highly anticipated (but apparently stalled) Saola project with the Do Chay crew in Mt. Pleasant, but he’s out of there now and all in on this new venture. SFU grad Wan (Media Arts & Design) – who I’m told won’t be working the floor but rather doing the restaurant’s promotions, graphics, photography, and other creative stuff – is a veteran food blogger and rolls big on Instagram as @stephwants. She might not be doing table maintenance or putting out fires (yet), but this being a dream project I’ll wager she be plenty present.
If you remember the 14-year old Senova restaurant at all (closed in 2019), you’ll be able to recognize it immediately here with its slightly angled and beautifully beamed ceiling; curvaceous wooden bar (and back bar) that connects to a broad open kitchen; the brick-lined wine cave; and soft yellow exterior. To my eye, save for the colour of a wall here and there, there’s very little that has been changed, which should prove fine if Kerrisdale is as resistant to change as its reputation suggests. Regardless of the truth or rumour of that resistance, the neighbourhood – especially its quiet southern extreme at 57th Ave – needs good and interesting restaurants, so let’s hope its paying attention.
Despite the Iberian pastiche remaining broadly evident in the interior, the food concept at Land & Sea is a long way from Lisbon. Lin will be dishing his own interpretation of a cuisine that should one day be considered one of Vancouver’s own: modern, chef-driven West Coast Japanese. In 2021 it’s not an entirely unique concept (see Blue Water Cafe, PiDGiN and the late Mak N Ming for a timeline of comparables), but it feels right for the city and already makes a lot of sense to its diners. Plus there’s room to get creative with all the local ingredients and maybe even sneak in techniques and ideas from other cuisines (eg. French, Italian, Korean, etc.), diversity being the West Coast’s biggest culinary strength after all.
The menu I’ve seen includes dishes like local gindara sablefish in mentaiko butter; grilled endive with tobiko and miso-Caesar dressing; “flame-finished” Ora King salmon soba (see above); and strip steaks with shisho, daikon oroshi and optional uni. The fact that there’s an Unagi Risotto with a 63 degree egg, an Udon Bolognese with togarashi and a Chittara Vongole with sake should put Kissa Tanto on Land & Sea’s list of local inspirations. The wine list (which I haven’t seen) has been put together by veteran sommelier Robert Stelmachuk, so I think we can expect some very good bottles, even a baller classic or two (I spied a lone Tignanello biggie hanging out on a shelf by itself, beckoning…). The cocktail program is being overseen by ex-Glowbal bartender, Juheon Lee, who has been building the list all summer long. His stuff looks a little stuntish. Let’s hope they’re quick.
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Overall, I like the idea. Very probably, so do you. I guess we all want to like it because it’s something that we can honestly say is ours. I mean, Dungeness crab ravioli with sweet tomato chili, quail egg drop and soft shell crab tempura? That’s some home team stuff right there! And really, South Kerrisdale needs a restaurant this promising. Don’t forget this neighbourhood propped Senova up long after its best before date (and its change in concept to mostly Italian), which leads me to believe diners hereabouts are loyal and grateful to have something better than middling in their midst. If Lin and Wan work hard, train and keep their people happy, and execute as well as they Instagram, success could be a matter of just opening the doors.
Soft opening day for the 120-seater (starting with 60) is set for September 3rd. Take a look inside…